June 16, 2013
Ponte Fabricio Bridge, Rome.
We began the day with a visit to the Ponte Fabricio, the oldest bridge in Rome. It was built in the 1st century BC, and because it linked the Jewish quarter to the rest of the city, there is little question that Paul (and other early Christians) walked across that very bridge. Although it has been upgraded several times in the last 2000 years, my understanding is that it is still largely the original structure.
This morning we also visited the Pantheon, which is in amazing shape for having been built by the Emperor Hadrian in the early 2nd century! Originally built as a temple to “all the gods,” it is now a church. After asking permission, we sang the hymn, “What is this place?” which attracted the notice of other visitors in the building. After singing, we needed to leave (or stay for a longer time) as Mass was about to begin.
We then traveled to the Coliseum, where we met Emerson and Ruth Lesher. Their plane out of Harrisburg, Pa., had engine problems, and they needed to reschedule their overseas flight for a day later. So now our number was complete at 43. We were not able to visit Nero’s Golden House, since it was undergoing renovations. Nero’s house is underground, and there was a major cave-in last year.
We visited the San Callisto catacombs, which were used by the early Christians in the pre-Constantinian era. Many Christians who lost their lives in martyrdom were buried here, with symbols of the faith witnessing their allegiance. We ended the afternoon with a quick visit to the Roman forum, where we saw the Senate building that has been standing for 2,000 years.
We visited the Mamertine Prison, where both Peter and Paul were held as prisoners, according to tradition. I personally consider the traditional identification of Mamertine Prison with Peter and Paul a bit dubious, historically, but it is a convenient image with which to imagine the imprisonment of Peter. Perhaps not as much the imprisonment of Paul, who was a Roman citizen.
We had the evening free to explore Rome on our own and find a restaurant that served pasta.
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Welcome to this window on the 2013 Mediterranean Cruisetour. As Sara Wenger Shenk, AMBS president, and Loren Johns, AMBS professor of New Testament, and 43 other travelers explore the places where the Apostle Paul traveled, they will share photos and reports here. Come back to this space for what we hope will be daily snapshots in words and photos of what the group is experiencing.
Visit Menno Travel to learn more about the Cruisetour.